Tag Archive | Madison Square Garden

Jonathan Borofsky’s Human Structures at Plaza 33, Penn Station

Human Structures
All Photos By Gail

We were just arriving for a fun press event at The Pennsy Food Hall in Penn Plaza, just out front of Madison Square Garden, when I spotted this fantastic, towering public art work by Jonathan Borofsky. Entitled Human Structures, the sculpture sits where Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstroke Group sculpture previously stood. Human Structures closely resembles a tower of colorful, interlocking paper dolls. I like it.

Human Structures Detail

Aside from its obvious purpose as  selfie-magnet, Human Structures is part of Plaza33 Inc’s efforts to turn the no-man’s land outside of Penn Station into a welcoming pedestrian plaza hosting seasonal live music and performances.

Human Structures

Jonathan Borofsky’s Human Structures can be found at Plaza 33, on the East side of 33rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, in NYC.

Human Structures

Human Structures

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Pink Thing of The Day: Pink Fright Wig

Pink Fright Wig
All Photos By Gail

This bright Pink Wig, which I stopped to snap while walking south on 8th Avenue near Madison Square Garden, reminded me immediately of the  crazy, disheveled fright wig that Andy Warhol famously sported in his later years.  I’m picturing it on Andy’s head even as I type this.

Mane Beauty Supply Store Front

Spotted in the window of Mane Beautify Supply, located at 412 8th Avenue between 30th & 31st Streeta, New York, NY 10001.

Recommended Viewing: We Are X, The Death and Life of X Japan

We Are X Movie Poster
Above Image Courtesy of We Are X Film Dot Com. All Other Photos By Gail

When the most popular heavy metal band in Japan came to New York in October of 2014 to play a show at Madison Square Garden, they managed to sell out the legendary arena, despite being virtually unknown in America. X (known stateside as X Japan), got their start in the 1980s as a glam metal band, doing their best to shock audiences with their outrageous stage show and equally over-the-top, gender-bending physical appearances that included flamboyant rock fashions, wildly theatrical hairstyles and Kabuki-esque make-up. But what critics who initially dismissed the band as all style and no substance didn’t realize was that these guys could play their asses off, and were selling the type of rebellious image that repressed Japanese audiences couldn’t wait to buy. Now, an award-winning documentary, We Are X,  aims to bring the myth and enigma that is X Japan into your consciousness.

X Japan Concert Ad

Critics say that the mark of a good documentary is when its story is accessible to, and can be fully enjoyed by, audiences who are completely unfamiliar with its subject matter. Using the career-milestone Madison Square Garden concert as a jumping off point, and circling back to that show (which I attended) at the film’s end, Director Stephen Kijak (Stones in Exile, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man) has succeeded wildly at crafting a career-spanning Rock & Roll fable that will surely hook those who’ve never even heard of X Japan right from its opening credits.

Yoshiki at MSG
Yoshiki on Stage at MSG

Told primarily from the viewpoint of founding member Yoshiki; X Japan’s drummer, composer and charismatic leader, We Are X is both the story of the band’s groundbreaking 30-year career, and also the life story of Yoshiki, who turned to music as a child as a means to cope with the suicide of his father. Forming X as a teenager with school friend Toshi, who became the band’s lead singer, Yoshiki was driven to succeed by existential questions that haunted him from his father’s death; namely “What is my purpose?” and “why am I here?”

Yoshiki and Stephen Kijak
Yoshiki and Stephen Kijak Discuss the Film at a Post-Screening Q&A Here in NYC

Embracing a ‘Do or Die’ sensibility, X Japan became not just an innovative and successful rock band, but a cultural force as powerfully influential as that created by The Beatles decades before them. Not only have they achieved phenomenal record sales and concert attendances, but band members’ personal brands are associated with products as diverse as credit cards, wine, comic book superhero alter egos, and dolls made in their own likenesses. X Japan is also credited with spearheading the uniquely Japanese Visual Kei movement.

X at MSG
X Japan on Stage at MSG

The band’s great successes, however, were tempered with equally great tragedies. As a counterpoint to the celebratory  moments, the film carefully explores the suicides of two seminal band members, Hide (in 1998) and Taiji (in 2011), which shattered the lives of both X Japan’s surviving members, and devastated their fans, one of whom was driven to suicide because of the news. We Are X is a true life Rock & Roll story that really has everything.

Yoshiki and Toshi
Yoshiki and Toshi Rocking It Back in the Day!

Despite the intense personal/personnel drama, career challenges and many heart-rending moments, We Are X is also good fun, and thoroughly entertaining. One of my favorite parts happens towards the film’s end, when Yoshiki and Toshi are reunited in 2007, ten years after the singer abandoned X Japan to join a mind-controlling cult. Yoshiki recalls hanging out at the Palladium in Hollywood, where the friends were approached by two guys looking to buy drugs. One of the men asked the duo if they knew where they could score some X (meaning the psychedelic drug, Ecstasy). Yoshiki, whose grasp of the English language is obviously much  better now than it was back then, laughs when he recalls replying to the guy, with complete sincerity, “We are X!” Hilarious.

We Are X opens in theaters nationwide on Friday October 21st, 2016.

Grade: A+

X at MSG
X Japan On Stage at Madison Square Garden, October 2014

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Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstroke Group Sculpture

Brushstroke Group 3
All Photos By Gail

Brushstroke Group is a public sculpture by pop arist Roy Liechtenstein that you can hardly miss if you are walking on Seventh Avenue between Madison Square Garden /Penn Station and Macys. The problem is: it’s nearly impossible to get photos that don’t have a ton of people them. Because, Midtown.

Brushstroke Group 1

Lichtenstein liked the idea of making brushstrokes that were not brushstrokes so much, he finally arrived at the idea of making a brushstroke that is actually a sculpture. His sculpture on 7th Avenue and 33rd Street is a 3D version of his brushstroke paintings — and only one of many other, different Brushstroke Group sculptures located in other US cities.

Brushstroke Group 2

This same sculpture was previously displayed at Navy Pier in Chicago in 2012. At some point, it will surely move along to a new home.

Brushstroke Group 4

Photographed at 7th Avenue and 33rd Street, Adjacent to Madison Square Garden!

X Japan at Madison Square Garden: Best Concert Ever!

X Japan Billboard
X Japan Billboard, Corner of 34th Street and 7th Avenue (All Photos By Gail)

Here in New York City, it is no secret that you can have a magical adventure if you are just willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown. This is what happened to me when I accepted an invitation to see Japan’s most famous heavy metal band X – known here in America as X Japan, owing to another band in Los Angeles that happens to also have that name. Prior to this past weekend’s concert at Madison Square Garden the only things I knew about X was that their drummer, Yoshiki had been immortalized in a comic book by Stan Lee, and one song, “Jade” – which, prior to Googling the lyrics, I thought was called “You Are Beautiful” due to its only discernible English lyrics.

X Japan Stage Logo
As You Can See, Their Stage had a Catwalk, Which Every Rock Stage Should Have.

Since I had no previous familiarity with X Japan’s music, this review will be based on my experience as someone who was seeing and hearing the band for the first time.  I would say that X Japan is going to appeal to your musical taste if you like any of the following:  Big Arena Rock, Heavy Metal, Glam Metal, Dream Theater, Megadeth, Iron Maiden and any 80s Metal Band. It’s probably due to my affinity for that latter, much maligned genre that X Japan resonated with me right away, and I would (probably) still rather listen to  the cheesiest ’80s Metal for 100 million billion years than to any charting modern band for 15 minutes.  Just being serious.

Please enjoy my pictures and commentary!

First, let’s meet the members of X Japan.

Toshi Lead Vocals

This is Toshi, lead singer and founding member. He and Yoshiki have known each other since they were four years old (45 years ago), and started their first band together when they were eleven.

Yoshiki on the Kit

This is Yoshiki, X Japan’s drummer, pianist, and resident Sex God.

Yoshiki Hair

When his hands aren’t busy playing an instrument, Yoshiki touches his hair 60 or 70 times a minute.

Pata Guitarist

Here we have Guitarist Pata, who has been with the band the longest next to Toshi and Yoshiki.

Heath Bassist

This is Heath, on Bass Guitar.

Sugizo Violin

Sugizo plays the Violin.

X Band on Stage

A female string quartet added to the atmosphere of their sometimes symphonic metal songs.

Besides the band sounding and playing great, there was a ton of visuals to keep your eyes entertained and your brain engaged, such as:

Skulls Stage Shot

Crazy Visual Projections!

Fire Background Stage Shot

X Red Fire wirh Prop

Giant Stage Props! In the above photo you can see the two halves of the letter “X” coming together from across the stage.

X Prop Stage shot

Here it is again!

X Japan Stage Prop Pink Fire

P1050663

Laser Lights and Fire Bombs!

Confetti Bazooka

Confetti Bazookas!

X Japan Wrist Band

When we first entered the arena, ushers gave everyone this wrist band thing. We wondered what it could be for, but a couple of fans told us it was probably something that was going to factor into the show, and that we should be sure to wear it. That was excellent advice because look what happened with those wrist bands about an hour into the nearly-three-hour show:

Lit Up Wrist Bands

Lit Up Wrist Bands

It was amazing!

Yoshiki on Drums

At one point during the show, Yoshiki’s drum riser actually moved down the Cat Walk and then rose up into the air over the crowd!

Yoshiki Rising Drum Riser

It was just insane!

Yoshiki at Piano

Yoshiki steps away from his massive kit to play piano many, many times during X Japan’s set. He even played a bit of Swan Lake! Here, he prays for everyone to have fun at the show. Prayers answered!

X Japan have been together off and on for 30 years. Here are some photos of what they looked like back in the day:

X Japan Old School

X Japan Old School

Two former members (not necessarily pictured above) have passed on. RIP!

Lyrics to Hero

They did a new song called “Hero” with the lyrics projected on the screen so fans could sing along.

Lyrics to Hero

“Hero” managed to be both uplifting and sad simultaneously.

X Band on Stage with Banner

Finally, it was time to say goodbye, as the members of X Japan gathered at the edge of the Catwalk and pulled this banner from the a fan in the audience. Yoshiki proceeded to wrap himself in it. Cute!

X Band on Stage Farewell

Goodbye X Japan and thanks for the crazy fun show!

THE SET LIST

MIRACLE   (INTRO)

JADE

RUSTY  NAIL

SILENT  JEALOUSY

BENEATH  THE SKIN

PATA   +   HEATH  SOLO

DRAIN

SUGIZO  VIOLIN  SOLO

KURENAI

HERO

BORN TO  BE FREE
·∙

ENCORE 1

PIANO  SOLO

DRUM  SOLO

FOREVER  LOVE

I.V.

X
·∙

ENCORE  2

ENDLESS RAIN

ART OF LIFE  (PIANO)

Van Halen at Madison Square Garden: The Set List

David Lee Roth, Alex and Eddie Van Halen at MSG
Image Source

Sometimes, life will surprise you. Van Halen is currently on an extensive US tour with original and wildly iconic front man David Lee Roth back on vocals and Eddie’s son Wolfgang on Bass. As an aside, I’ve attended maybe half a dozen David Lee Roth solo shows in the past decade – thanks to a friend of mine having been employed as DLR’s long-time drummer prior to him joining Korn. Dave was always in top form: leaping in the air and roundhouse kicking invisible foes all while hitting those illusive high notes, including the signature, primal yelps he practically trademarked. Because of Roth’s self-evident skill, I easily convinced myself that seeing the DLR Band cover Van Halen songs was essentially the same as seeing Van Halen live. Yes, I just typed that.

Fast forward a couple of years. When I got tickets to the first of Van Halen’s two sold-out shows at NYC’s Madison Square Garden, I seriously wasn’t expecting much. Certainly, I was not considering the possibility of there being any real “wow” factor involved, as I am rock and roll curmudgeon who basically thinks sentimentality is for shit when it comes to a legendary band reuniting with “most of its original members” and blah blah blah. Plus, did you read any of Sammy Hagar’s Heavy-on-the-Eddie-Van-Halen-bashing biography? Yeesh, what hot mess he makes Eddie out to be. And yet, I agreed to get on board for the show, along with a couple of friends, if only for nostalgia’s sake and the promise of an excuse to leave my house on a weeknight. Plus, maybe they would do “Everybody Wants Some,” and that song is just insane.

Well, last night I had a true Come to Jesus moment when Van Halen took the stage for a nearly 2 hour aural assault and reminded me why they are the legends that they are, and why DLR is phoning it in without his on again off again band mates. Because without Eddie Van Halen’s incomparble guitar chops, without Alex the drummer god pounding out the heavy metal thunder and – most importantly – without the Van Halen family’s backing vocals and distinctive harmonies, Roth can’t possibly do a Van Halen song justice. Jesus god, what a great show.

If you weren’t inside Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, this is what you missed.

You Really Got Me
Running with the Devil
She’s The Woman
Romeo Delight
Tattoo
Everybody Wants Some (!!)
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
China Town
Hear About It Later
Oh, Pretty Woman
Drum Solo
Unchained
The Trouble With Never
Dance The Night Away
I’ll Wait
Hot For Teacher
Women in Love
Girls Gone Bad
Beautiful Girls
Ice Cream Man
Panama
Eruption (Guitar Solo)
Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love
Jump

Van Halen Tour Dates for 2012 are available at This Link. Get tickets while you can!